Friends Who Assisted Victims Recall Hit-and-Run Suspect Leaving Collision Scene
By Jenean Docter
The People called the first witness to testify in the case of Kareem Kento Washington on the morning of March 9, 2018, in Department 8.
Deputy “T.K.” has worked for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for the past 15 years. On the night of August 22, 2017, he was on duty.
T.K. responded to the Freeport Bridge area, in order to search for evidence that any possible crimes had been committed there. He specifically responded to the southwest corner of Old (South) River Road and the bridge over the Sacramento River. The division between Sacramento and Yolo Counties exists about halfway across the bridge.
There, T.K. located two different car panels, which lay on either side of a stop sign. T.K. described the panels as being “painted brown” and “concave,” and speculated that they were the side panels of a vehicle.
The stop sign appeared to be bent about “ten degrees away from vertical,” according to T.K. he wasn’t sure what had happened there, but he took note of the details.
T.K. also responded to a residential location around eleven o’clock that night. He described the location as a neighborhood “filled with a series of small townhomes.” There, he spoke with “A.R.” and took a statement.
His partner on duty that night was Deputy “W,” who was conducting his own portion of the investigation.
Mr. Van Zandt confirmed that T.K. was investigating the southwest corner of Freeport Bridge and Old River Road.
The next witness called by the People was a young man named “Z.C.” Z.C. was in West Sacramento on the night of August 22, 2017. He was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car between ten and eleven o’clock that night.
As Z.C. was traveling toward the Jefferson exit on the freeway, he noticed a vehicle “going at least 80 miles per hour, pouring smoke” while his friend’s vehicle was approaching the intersection to turn right onto Jefferson Boulevard.
The vehicle Z.C. rode in followed the speeding vehicle toward a red light, where about 10 cars were stopped. The rapidly moving vehicle then “hit the right curb and spun out.”
Z.C. and his friend attempted to stop to see if the driver of the vehicle was all right, but the vehicle began moving soon after.
Z.C. described the smoke emitted by the vehicle as serious, “engine-failure-type smoke.” He initially believed that the driver’s brakes were failing.
The vehicle continued to barrel down the left lane. At this point, the vehicle was “going sideways” because the rims had been bent after hitting the raised curb.
Z.C. recollected that the next intersection was about a quarter of a mile away. There, the driver appeared to Z.C. to have “lost control.” The vehicle hit the center median head-on, “went over” it, and then collided with an oncoming car on the opposite side of the road.
After the collision, Z.C. exited his vehicle to go and help the passengers struck by the erratic car. Z.C. described the passenger car as a four-door Nissan Altima. Of the four passengers inside of the Altima, Z.C. helped two out.
The Altima was “completely totaled,” and Z.C. recalled that “the engine was lying on the street.” Z.C. reflected that, after the accident, the front end of the Altima was “gone.” All of the airbags inside of the vehicle had deployed. Because the front end of the vehicle was destroyed to such an extreme extent, the front door would only open about a quarter of an inch. Z.C. “had to bend the frame back” in order to free the passengers inside.
“They didn’t have anything to do with what was going on, so I figured they needed the help the most,” replied Z.C., upon being asked by Deputy DA Alex Kian why he did not choose to help the driver who had crashed over the median.
Z.C. remembered seeing the driver who had hit the Altima walking away down the street about 50 yards away from the scene. A group of people who had also stopped to help followed him, “yelling at him to stop.”
Z.C. followed the group, but never made contact with the driver. He yelled “stop” to try to get his attention, but the lone male driver never heard or acknowledged him. His vehicle appeared to have been a four-door gray Lexus. Miraculously, all four tires were still attached to it.
Because it smelled like there was gas leaking from the vehicle, the fire department arrived on scene.
Eventually, a civilian managed to detain the driver, by holding him to the ground in a seated position. The driver did not appear to Z.C. to be resisting, but looked “very upset,” and said “she said no to the ring.”
“From all that happened, it did not look intentional,” Z.C. reflected.
When asked if he would be able to recognize the driver today, Z.C. replied “probably not.” Z.C. gave a statement to an officer, and returned to his friend.
Z.C. did not recall any woman in the Nissan mentioning that she bit off part of her tongue.
The People also called Z.C.’s friend “J.M.” to testify as a witness.
J.M. was also in West Sacramento on the night of August 22, 2017. He was driving his car, a 2006 Scion xB, while returning home after taking a friend home in the Southport area.
Upon approaching an intersection to turn right onto Jefferson, J.M. noticed a car moving “faster than any car generally speeds” and “smoking.” The car was “doing at least 80 to 100 (miles per hour),” J.M. estimated.
J.M. noted that the brakes of the speeding vehicle “looked orange,” and were perhaps beginning to fail—which might explain the smoke.
After J.M. turned right onto Jefferson, he noticed that the alignment of the vehicle appeared to be “off,” and the car seemed to be “fishtailing” from side to side. J.M. claimed that it appeared to have suffered from previous damage.
J.M. attempted to stop to see if the driver of the vehicle was okay. “I’m a mechanic by trade, so I know that sometimes things fail,” he explained. However, as he was catching up to the car, it sped away once more.
The vehicle continued to speed down the street, crashed into a median, and hit another car. At this point, J.M. estimated that the vehicle “wasn’t going as fast…maybe 40 or 50 miles per hour.”
J.M. immediately stopped in the middle of the road, switched on his vehicle’s hazard lights, and rushed to help two women out of the vehicle hit by the speeding vehicle. He noted that their vehicle seemed to be a standard sedan from the late 1990s or early 2000s, and of a push-to-start configuration.
After the crash, “the entire front end of the car was completely crushed.”
Significantly, J.M. recalled that “it didn’t seem like a physical injury or blood loss situation (but)…more typical crash injuries, like whiplash” that the passengers suffered from.
Immediately after the collision, the driver of the first car “immediately got out and started to walk away.” J.M. noticed other bystanders following him, and “yelling at him to stop.” Eventually, another civilian detained the driver by holding him on the ground.
The driver “seemed really stressed out with life,” J.M. sympathetically mentioned, and compared his behavior to a nervous breakdown, noting that “I’ve (J.M) had a few myself.
“The way he was talking, he just seemed really done with life,” J.M. continued.
J.M. remembered the driver saying calmly, “She said no to the ring.”
Although J.M. was about five to ten feet from the driver, he does not remember his face and could not identify him in court. He explained that taking note of the driver’s exact identity in the darkness was his “last worry” at the scene of the collision.
After ascertaining that the driver had been detained, J.M. moved his vehicle, the Scion xB, to the side of the road.
The vehicle of the detained driver suffered extensive damage: the rear window was shattered, the steering and alignment seemed ruined, the top half of the vehicle was damaged, and the car leaked fluids, ostensibly gasoline. J.M. observed that the vehicle “looked like it might’ve rolled.”
J.M. met with the police. After they “called in his name and ran his driver’s license number,” he gave a statement.
Civilian Who Detained Hit-and-Run Suspect Describes Him as Aggressive and Suicidal
By Jenean Docter
Further witness testimony in the case of Kareem Kento Washington, accused of two hit-and-runs, was heard in Department 8 on the afternoon of March 9, 2018. Judge David W. Reed supervised the proceedings, with Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt representing the accused and Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian appearing on behalf of the People of California.
The People called a young man, “L.T.,” to testify as a witness.
L.T. was in West Sacramento on the night of August 22, 2017, between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M. because he was visiting with his uncle.
As his uncle was driving, he noticed that someone ran a red light. He described the accused as “my brother” (no biological or familial relation), and recognized him in court.
L.T. and his uncle were in the first car stopped at the red light. After waiting for the light to turn green, his uncle turned right on Jefferson Boulevard and (unintentionally) followed Mr. Washington’s vehicle.
L.T. remembered that Mr. Washington’s vehicle “was going really fast…maybe 80 or 90 miles per hour”.
After about two lights, L.T. saw a “large group of people” on the opposite side of the road. They appeared to be helping people out of a car, which appeared to have been struck T-bone style by Mr. Washington’s vehicle. L.T. did not see the crash itself, but he witnessed the aftermath.
Mr. Washington was walking away from the scene, leaving his vehicle “in the bushes.”
A crowd of civilians followed Mr. Washington, screaming, “Stop—where you going?”
L.T. and his uncle drove alongside Mr. Washington for a period of time, before parking their vehicle and attempting to communicate with him. L.T. tried to tell him to “stay, because of what happened”.
L.T. noted that the driver “was swearing,” and that “he said he was going to kill us if we don’t leave him alone.” He seemed “aggressive” to L.T., based upon his verbal utterances and his “confrontational” body language. “He looked like he wanted to fight,” L.T. stated.
L.T. felt concerned for his own safety and that of his uncle. He then made the split-second decision to detain the driver. “I grabbed him from behind, (and) pushed him down by applying pressure with my forearm to his artery, ” he stated.
While waiting for the police to arrive, L.T. asked Mr. Washington for his name, and asked him to explain his behavior.
“He told me he wanted to die…I felt sorry for him,” L.T. reflected.
Mr. Washington explained to L.T. that he was “mad at his girlfriend for rejecting his proposal.”
L.T. then “reminded him of all the people who were hurt in the accident.”
Once L.T. had successfully detained Mr. Washington, the crowd of bystanders dissipated.
L.T. noted that “Mr. Washington was not trying to get up once he sat down,” and did not resist at all.
Once the police arrived, L.T. spoke with them and gave a statement.